Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Theological/Philosophical Soundings




Last evening I went to bed happy because my son, who is 12 and just beginning 7th grade, was given the homework assignment by his Theology teacher (yes Theology) to read Plato's allegory of the cave from Book VII of the Republic. This just elevated my philosophical mood even more than it has been of late. I have been reading and re-reading many texts, especially those by and about Wittgenstein, whose work I find very therapeutic, but certainly not beyond criticism or correction.

Adding to my current enthusiasm are several posts by Fr. Edward Oaks, SJ, who teaches Theology at the University of St. Mary of the Lake, which includes Mundeleine Seminary, the major seminary for the Archdiocese of Chicago, on the First Things blog. These posts, while short, are well worth taking the time to read, ponder and follow-up by more reading. My first encounter with Fr. Oakes' writing was reading his introduction to the theology of Hans urs von Balthasar, whose shorter works I had been reading for some time, back in the late nineties. The book, Pattern of Redemption, is the best introduction, at least in English, of the theology of von Balthasar. Having studied Philosophy academically, but not Theology, his exposition of the analogia entis- the analogy of Being- and its fundamental importance to the Catholic theological tradition, of which Balthasar was a master, alone makes the book well worth one's time and effort. While the book is a general introduction to the vast terrain of Balthasar's thinking, Oakes focuses on his theological aesthetics. Perhaps the only rival to Fr. Oakes' book in English (stoking the Jesuit/Dominican rivalry) is Fr. Aidan Nichols, OP's The Word Has Been Abroad.

Okay, enough shameless plugging of my favorite books! Leave this blog, go forth and read Fr. Oakes' delighful and educational posts on the relationship between Theology and Philosophy, his earlier posts on the philosophy and nature of blogging, as well as his two posts on aphorisms in summertime, located here and here.

Just for the record, I am quite certain that I do not suffer from what Fr. Oakes describes as "One of the great delusional fictions that bloggers operate under." Namely, "that there are people out there who actually care what a blogger has to say!". This blog was initially named, taking its cue from an old KRCL radio segment entitled "Tom Waits for nobody", "Scott Dodge for Nobody". It would also be an exercise in (self-)deception, however, to write that I do this solely for personal amusement. I have plenty to keep me both busy and amused. Therefore, it is my sincere hope that my modest blog has a few readers. I also hope I can post items my readers find interesting, inspiring, thought-provoking, and from time-to-time challenging. Because writing, like discussion, has a way of helping me clarify my thoughts and synthesize the amazing amount of interesting things I constantly encounter, keeping a blog helps me to understand and make sense of the world. In that way it is humbling, as I am constantly dashed up against what I do not know, even that which I do not know but like to know. So, in addition to being a humbling experience, it is a way of constantly challenging myself.

How's that for a Both/And instead of an Either/Or?

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